With Josh Norman's abrupt departure, there's space in the Carolina secondary to fill. That space was there even before the Norman debacle. With Norman in the mix, Carolina had committed to Bene' Benwikere, a third-year player whose experience is entirely in the slot. Adding Brandon Boykin and keeping Cortland Finnegan and Robert McClain worked well to implement this strategy. Boykin has a strong track-record in the slot and, if Bene' struggled, Carolina could rotate a veteran like McClain in.
Norman's departure, however, leaves Carolina with a glaring hole, one that will be difficult to fill in the draft alone. Sure, adding a 1st round talent to the mix will help, but this coaching staff values experiences and doesn't like to bet that much on a rookie. There's a learning curve, and they know it.
The pre-Norman departure plan didn't seem to include Peanut Tillman, who started the 2015 season as Carolina's #2 corner. Tillman, a future Hall of Famer, tore his ACL in the final season of the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He had been nursing a partial tear since Week 10. His absence hurt Carolina going into the playoffs, forcing Dave Gettleman to scramble to get some warm bodies on the roster (McClain and Finnegan) and left fans questioning Ron Rivera's decision to play Tillman in what most believed was a meaningless game. Carolina was playing for home-field advantage at the time.
It was the third consecutive season ended by injury for the 35-year-old veteran. Even worse, it was an injury sustained in January, which left most thinking would end Tillman's playing career. He's been absent from Carolina's plans from what we can tell, and some of us had moved on to speculating if he would be a useful defensive backs coach, not if he would contribute as a player.
Things have changed dramatically in Carolina over the last few days, and in the midst of it all, Tillman reminded us that he may not be looking to hanging up the cleats after all. Here's a recent Instagram post from Peanut showing his off-season training. He's wearing a Panthers shirt and he tagged a bunch of Panther players in the post.
He doesn't any exercises that indicating the strength of his knee. He does highlight that he has placed a premium on keeping himself in peak physical shape in the recovery process. Maybe this is his way of saying, if DG wants to give me a call, I'll pick up. Right now, I'm thinking that it may be worth picking up the phone.
By the Professor, aka Tony Dunn
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